Bags of Bran


Spurious Josephus Quotes?!
April 11, 2017, 3:13 pm
Filed under: Bible, Biography

“They who lose their lives for the sake of God, live unto God, as do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs.”

Google this quotation, read some of the results, and then tell me that citation and plagiarism problems are new to this age.

Supposedly this quote comes from Josephus. I would have loved to find it and read it in its context because I’m studying resurrection for my sermon. I saw it first in the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge (unattributed, except as Josephus). Here is the paragraph:

There is a remarkable passage in Josephus, which proves that the best informed among the Jews believed in the immateriality and immortality of the soul, and that the souls of righteous men were in the presence of God in a state of happiness. ‘They who lose their lives for the sake of God, live unto God, as do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs.’  Not less remarkable is a passage in Shemoth Rabba, ‘Why doth Moses say, (Ex. 32:13) Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?  R. Abin saith, The Lord said unto Moses, I look for ten men from thee, as I looked for that number in Sodom.  Find me out ten righteous persons among the people, and I will not destroy thy people.  Then saith Moses, Behold, here am I, and Aaron, Eleazar, and Ithamar, Phinehas, and Caleb, and Joshua; but, saith God, there are but seven:  where are the other three?   When Moses knew not what to do, he saith, O Eternal God, [hayim hem ha-metim,] do those live who are dead?  Yes, saith God.  Then saith Moses, If those that are dead do live, remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.’

Fascinating, no? Josephus believed that Jews held to the immortality of the soul? What an excellent thing to quote in a sermon!

Except I looked in Josephus: it’s not there. Not in the wording above; not in similar wording. “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” only occur together once, in a different context. I tried key words; I tried key concepts. Nothing.

So I tried Google, in case it was from a different edition of Josephus. Searching for the initial phrase, I found the same paragraph, but with “Josephus (De Maccab. c. 16)” as the attribution. But again, I have searched Josephus’ entire corpus in vain, manually and electronically, for such a quote. But I found roughly a dozen old books that reproduce the entire paragraph almost verbatim!

The earliest book that contained the quote (and the surrounding paragraph is in Adam Clarke’s commentary on the book of Luke (published 1825). Perhaps he lifted it from someone else? Another book had the paragraph bracketed and the source was listed as Bagster, but I could find no information on it.

Who knows.

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5 Comments so far
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As to “Bagster,” I noticed here (https://www.studylight.org/bible/reb/luke/20-38.html) that Bagster is listed on the same page as the publisher of one of the Bible versions:

Copyright Statement:
The Emphasised Bible
The Bible text designated “The Emphasized Bible” is from The Emphasized Bible by J.B. Rotherham, originally published by Samuel Bagster and Sons in 1902. The electronic text is copyright 2000 by Larry Nelson, Box 2083, Rialto, CA 92376. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Perhaps your source conflated the two things?

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Comment by chuckbumgardner

On that same page (), it gives a slightly different rendering of Clarke, which includes a more specific reference to Josephus:

All live unto him – There is a remarkable passage in Josephus’s account of the Maccabees, chap. xvi., which proves that the best informed Jews believed that the souls of righteous men were in the presence of God in a state of happiness. “They who lose their lives for the sake of God, Live unto God, as do Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs.” And one not less remarkable in Shemoth Rabba, fol. 159. “Rabbi Abbin saith, The Lord said unto Moses, Find me out ten righteous persons among the people, and I will not destroy thy people. Then said Moses, Behold, here am I, Aaron, Eleazar, Ithamar, Phineas, Caleb, and Joshua; but God said, Here are but seven, where are the other three? When Moses knew not what to do, he said, O Eternal God, do those live that are dead! Yes, saith God. Then said Moses, If those that are dead do live, remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” So the resurrection of the dead, and the immortality and immateriality of the soul, were not strange or unknown doctrines among the Jews.

Josephus covers the Maccabees in his Antiquities of the Jews, but there’s no mention in “chapter xvi” of anything like your citation. His other works don’t go up to “chapter xvi”, so if it were any chapter 16, it would be in Antiquities.

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Comment by chuckbumgardner

I tried Book 16, chapter 16, searching by key words, searching in Philo, searching the whole ANCF series… Somebody somewhere got something mixed up. I wonder if perhaps whatever work it was on the Maccabees had been misattributed to Josephus. I have no particular reason to doubt that the citation exists somewhere, but I am open to the idea that it may have been a summary that got passed along as “a remarkable passage.”

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Comment by christopheram

In Wars of the Jews, beginning 3:350 or so (through 382), Josephus makes a speech that deals with some of the content you are looking for concerning Josephus’ view of the mortality of the body and the eternality of the soul.

372 “The bodies of all men are indeed mortal, and are created out of corruptible matter; but the soul is ever immortal, and is a portion of the divinity that inhabits our bodies. Besides, if anyone destroys or abuses a depositum he has received from a mere man, he is esteemed a wicked and perfidious person; but then if anyone cast out of his body this divine depositum , can we imagine that he who is thereby affronted does not know of it.”

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Comment by CHRISTOPHER WATSON

I was impressed by this section as well. He seems to assert that Hindus had a better conception of eternal life than “we” did at that time (!!!); and that a species of secularism had blinded their minds to the truth of immortality and divine sovereignty (350-361).

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Comment by christopheram




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