Topic for the Year 2013–2014 (Year 51):
Rethinking Josephus’ Antiquities

Co-Chairs: Alex Ramos (UPenn), Jae Han (UPenn), and Jacob Feeley (UPenn)
PSCO Coordinator: Annette Yoshiko Reed (Penn)

I see that those who wish to compose histories do not have one and the same motive for their zeal; rather, their reasons are many and very different from one another. (Josephus, Antiquities 1.1)

The works of the first-century CE Jewish historian Josephus are widely recognized as the most important Jewish historical sources from antiquity. They are invaluable not only for the study of Jewish history but also for the study of the early Roman Empire and the beginnings of Christianity. Nevertheless, Josephus’ magnum opus, the Antiquities—a twenty-volume account of Jewish history from Creation to the first Jewish revolt against Rome—remains understudied. Scholars have tended to mine this work for exegetical or historical information, rather than exploring its larger themes and aims. Its account of the Hellenistic and early Roman periods have been studied in relative isolation from its “biblical retellings.” Disciplinary divisions have resulted in different conceptions of the Antiquities—that is, either as Jewish biblical retelling or as Greek historical writing.

Our aim for the 51st PSCO is to work towards a more integrative understanding of the Antiquities. We plan to divide the work into five sections and hold a series of five text-centered sessions. In each session, the speaker will be asked to speak to issues or problems that he or she considers to be important for understanding the section in question. As a group, then, we will move sequentially through the entirety of the Antiquities over the course of the year.

We will also explore the Antiquities from the perspectives of different subfields. Rather than inviting only specialists in Josephus, we will draw speakers from the fields of Biblical Studies, Classics, Ancient History, and early Christianity. In the process, we plan to use a focus on the Antiquities to explore new approaches to history, memory, and writing in antiquity.

What comparanda from among Hellenistic, Roman, Jewish, and Christian texts help to locate the discourses about the past in the Antiquities? Are the traditional categories of “biblical retelling” and Greco-Roman historiography an impediment to interpreting the Antiquities as a whole? Are there other, more useful categories? These are some of the overarching questions that we hope to address through this year's PSCO.

Alex Ramos, Jacob Feeley, and Jae Han are organizing our sessions this year.