History and Historiography in Early Judaism and Early Christianity,

with special focus on Josephus and Eusebius

Religious Studies 735, Spring 2007, Robert Kraft [updated 27mr2007]

[Directed Reading and Research, Fall 2009]


The main sources for postbiblical Jewish history and for early Christian history are, respectively, Josephus (first century CE; Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews) and Eusebius (fourth century CE; Ecclesiastical History). The goal of this seminar is to attempt to understand these authors in their respective contexts with special attention to how and why they constructed and presented their historical works, and how we can test their presentations for historical credibility. Neither author worked in a vacuum, so we will also spend some time exploring available sources and trends in the Greco-Roman Jewish world of Josephus as well as in the eastern Mediterranean Christian world of Eusebius two centuries later. While knowledge of Greek and/or Latin will be helpful, the texts will be discussed in class in English.

Working definition of "historiography": The study of how those who attempted to record information about the past went about their tasks.

Ancient sources:

Some basic tools for research:

Suggested basic weekly readings (tentative guidelines):

Some topics for research:


Some recent bibliography:

Some key "intentionality" texts :


Josephus' claims about sources in the Antiquities:

Some interesting "historical understanding" texts :