More items of interest in Antiquities of the Jews... if that is the title. That's what I've always known it as, but my edition is entitled Jewish Antiquities, and Google Translate suggests that's the meaning of the original title Ἰουδαικὴ 'Aρχαωλογία and it's what the Latin title Antiquitates Judaicae means. You may argue that this is nitpicking, but I disagree. The State of Israel has recently started trying to pass laws to define itself as a Jewish state, and people have been citing as precedent Herzl's book The Jewish State. But this too is a mistranslation: Herzl did not title his book Der Jüdische Staat "The Jewish State", but Der Judenstaat "The Jews' state", and there's quite a difference in meaning between the two.
Josephus' rendering of names
That over, I'd better start with what I mentioned last time, which is Josephus' rendering of Biblical names. Sometimes they are simply mangled due to Greek lacking sounds such as ׁש /ʃ/, ח /ħ/ or ק /q/; hence Iṣḥaq becomes "Isaac"; however, sometimes we can learn interesting things from the way Josephus renders names.
For example, I've read in the Encyclopaedia Judaica how שוא נע (mobile [i.e. voiced] shva) was not originally pronounced as a schwa (/ə/) as it is today, but an ultrashort version of (usually) the next vowel. This is why שְׁלֹמֹה Shəlomo becomes Solomon in Greek. I can see this phenomenon at work in Josephus, giving us Chodorlaomer rather than Chedorlaomer (which actually works better as a Hebrew transcription of Akkadian Kudur Lagamar "servant of [the god] Lagamar") and Zabulon for Zevulun (though why the O?).
The same applies to the first vowel in "Raguel" for "Reuel", but where did the G come from? Sometimes ע in the Bible is transliterated with a G, indicating that this letter in Biblical Hebrew was used to transcribe both the sound /ʕ/ (ع in Arabic) and /ɣ/ (غ in Arabic). Examples include "Gaza" and "Gomorrah" (the latter showing the shva voicing again, in this case a compound shva, i.e. ח ַט ֶף פ ּ ַת ָח). But if that were the case here, wouldn't the name always be rendered "Raguel"/"Reguel"? A bit of a mystery.
In some other cases, Josephus' transcription suggests that the Masoretic vocalisation may not actually have been the original one. I thought I blogged somewhere recently, but can't find it, so maybe it was in a conversation, about Noah's third son (listwise, if not age-wise). He is universally referred to as Japheth, and most of the time in the Hebrew he is Yafeth, but once or twice Yefeth, indicating that Yafeth is the pausal form. However, Josephus, and, I suspect, the Septuagint, call him Japheth, suggesting that the pronunciation at the time was Yafeth, and sometime before the time of the Masoretes that was mistakenly interpreted as a pausal form.
The same applies in the case of the name Peleg, which Josephus renders Phaleg... but why does he give it a Φ at the front? IIRC at the time Josephus was writing, Φ was completing its transition from an aspirated /ph/ to the /f/ sound it has today. But maybe the transcription scheme he uses goes back to the Septuagint, and the use of Φ does indeed indicate a /ph/ in Hebrew. I've never heard of Hebrew having such a sound, but it may not be aspirated more than in English; and in English it's non-phonemic such that most people aren't aware of it, and I have difficulty distinguishing between /p/ and /ph/ allophones.
Other names Josephus uses are more puzzling. Why Mambre rather than Mamre? Is this just a change to make it easier to pronounce in Greek? And why does he alternate between "Simeon" and "Symeon"? The latter would have been pronounced with an ü sound; not the same as the former at all.
As for "Reubel", Wikipedia says:
Some scholars suspect that the final consonant may originally have been an l (similar to an n in the early Hebrew alphabet), and Josephus rendered the name as Reubel; it is thus possible that Reuben's name is cognate with the Arabic term Ra'abil, meaning wolves.
But I don't buy that. ל and נ aren't very similar, even in palaeo-Hebrew, and that change would lose the meaning of רְאוּבֵין as "see: a son".
Extra-Biblical attestations, and guest appearancesIn I.3.93, Josephus draws on extra-Biblical support for Noah's Ark:
Now all the writers of barbarian histories make mention of this flood, and of this ark; among whom is Berosus the Chaldean. For when he is describing the circumstances of the flood, he goes on thus: "It is said there is still some part of this ship in Armenia, at the mountain of the Cordyaeans; and that some people carry off pieces of the bitumen, which they take away, and use chiefly as amulets for the averting of mischiefs." Hieronymus the Egyptian also, who wrote the Phoenician Antiquities, and Mnaseas, and a great many more, make mention of the same. Nay, Nicolaus of Damascus, in his ninety-sixth book, hath a particular relation about them; where he speaks thus: "There is a great mountain in Armenia, over Minyas, called Baris, upon which it is reported that many who fled at the time of the Deluge were saved; and that one who was carried in an ark came on shore upon the top of it; and that the remains of the timber were a great while preserved. This might be the man about whom Moses the legislator of the Jews wrote."Abram also gets extra-Biblical mention (I.6.158):
Berosus mentions our father Abram without naming him, when he says thus: "In the tenth generation after the Flood, there was among the Chaldeans a man righteous and great, and skillful in the celestial science." But Hecataeus does more than barely mention him; for he composed, and left behind him, a book concerning him. And Nicolaus of Damascus, in the fourth book of his History, says thus: "Abram reigned at Damascus, being a foreigner, who came with an army out of the land above Babylon, called the land of the Chaldeans: but, after a long time, he got him up, and removed from that country also, with his people, and went into the land then called the land of Canaan, but now the land of Judea, and this when his posterity were become a multitude; as to which posterity of his, we relate their history in another work. Now the name of Abram is even still famous in the country of Damascus; and there is shown a village named from him, The Habitation of Abram."
I have no idea how much connection there is between these and the Biblical Abram.There's also mention made of someone one really wouldn't have expected here (I.15):
That from Surim was the land of Assyria denominated; and that from the other two (Apher and Japhran) the country of Africa took its name, because these men were auxiliaries to Hercules, when he fought against Libya and Antaeus; and that Hercules married Aphra's daughter, and of her he begat a son, Diodorus; and that Sophon was his son, from whom that barbarous people called Sophacians were denominated."
The travels of Abraham's family
Why did Teraḥ, father of Abraham, leave Ur of the Kasdim* in Mesopotamia and travel with his family to Ḥaran in Syria? The Bible doesn't state directly:
* Normally translated Chaldaeans, but that would be an anachronism. Georges Roux argues in his book Ancient Iraq that in this context it actually refers to an ancient people called the Kassites.
However, the answer's right there in the text; I'm surprised I never spotted it before, before Josephus pointed it out to me:
Genesis 11:27–32 בראשית יא כז–לב
Now these are the generations of Teraḥ: Terah begat Abram, Naḥor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot. Haran died before his father Teraḥ: in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Kasdim. Abram and Naḥor took wives for themselves: Abram's wife was called Sarai; and Naḥor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah. Sarai, though, was barren; she had no child.
Teraḥ took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran—his son's son—and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and with them they left Ur of the Kasdim, to go into the land of Canaan. Coming to Ḥaran, they dwelt there. The days of Teraḥ were two hundred and five years: and Teraḥ died in Ḥaran.
וְאֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת תֶּרַח תֶּרַח הוֹלִיד אֶת־אַבְרָם אֶת־נָחוֹר וְאֶת־הָרָן וְהָרָן הוֹלִיד אֶת־לוֹט׃ וַיָּמָת הָרָן עַל־פְּנֵי תֶּרַח אָבִיו בְּאֶרֶץ מוֹלַדְתּוֹ בְּאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים׃ וַיִּקַּח אַבְרָם וְנָחוֹר לָהֶם נָשִׁים שֵׁם אֵשֶׁת־אַבְרָם שָׂרָי וְשֵׁם אֵשֶׁת־נָחוֹר מִלְכָּה בַּת־הָרָן אֲבִי־מִלְכָּה וַאֲבִי יִסְכָּה׃ וַתְּהִי שָׂרַי עֲקָרָה אֵין לָהּ וָלָד׃
וַיִּקַּח תֶּרַח אֶת־אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ וְאֶת־לוֹט בֶּן־הָרָן בֶּן־בְּנוֹ וְאֵת שָׂרַי כַּלָּתוֹ אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד־חָרָן וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם׃ וַיִּהְיוּ יְמֵי־תֶרַח חָמֵשׁ שָׁנִים וּמָאתַיִם שָׁנָה וַיָּמָת תֶּרַח בְּחָרָן׃
Now Terah hating Chaldea, on account of his mourning for Haran, they all removed to Haran of Mesopotamia, where Terah died, and was buried, when he had lived to be two hundred and five years old.
In the story of Abram's servant travelling to Ḥaran to find a wife for Isaac (specifically Rebekah in Josephus), the man of Rebekah's household appears to be her brother Laban; her father Bethuel is only mentioned as speaking once, in Gen 24:50, which some scholars think to be an interpolation. Interestingly, Josephus seems either to have access to a text without this interpolation, or to regard it as such, as he has Rebekah explicity say (I.16):
My father was Bethuel, but he is dead; and Laban is my brother; and, together with my mother, takes care of all our family affairs, and is the guardian of my virginity.Right, I think that's enough for the time being.