[B-Greek] Josephus' "Son", War 5:272

Randall Buth randallbuth at gmail.com
Thu Aug 19 12:30:11 EDT 2010

<gfsomsel at yahoo.com> wrote:
> It isn't necessarily wrong.  I should have checked BDB in addition to HALOT

It's still wrong so I'll be blunt. You need to learn Hebrew. Well. But
you can be forgiven since BDB made such a mistake, too. Hopefully,
we'll have higher standards in the 21st century now that people can
more easily internalize the language to higher levels.

>With the plural אֲבָנִים rather than אֲבָנוֹת one would expect it
> to be masc.  In this case while it lists אֶבֶן as a fem, it also cites 1 Sam
> 17.40 where it is clearly construed as a masc since it used the m pl
> suffix attached to the sign of the acc to reference אֲבָנִים.

As mentioned, this is wrong. Shame on BDB. :-) The object pronoun
refers to the phrase חלוקי אבנים which is masculine.

> I think you impute too much understanding to the 1st cent readers.

It doesn't matter if Josephus' readers got the wordplay, it only
matters that the folk in the streets of Jerusalem understood the
Hebrew. They did.
(Please note: I am not claiming that they could not have understood
Greek and Aramaic, too. But this phrase was Hebrew for the
inner-Jewish audience.)

> They would not have readily made the connection.

Actually, this is one of the most common wordplays in the literature.
Jesus in the parable of the Tenants mentions the 'stone' as the
precedent to the 'son' in the parable. Not to mention the stones that
can be raised  up as children (this latter text is technically
ambiguous to source language because of the plural, but patently the
same word play.)

> It is not at all clear that Josephus understood Hebrew regardless of
> what someone else may claim.

I'm only quoting what Josephus claimed, and looking for consistency
and confirmation, which turns out to be clear. That is about all that
can be done with historical evidence and data, since it is
Even people who think that Josephus wrote the War, 1st ed., in Aramaic
recognize that Josephus could tell the languages apart and knew
Hebrew. ( Personally, I think that Josephus wrote the War for
posterity and chose the same language as the author of First

> Regardless of the fact that my middle initial is "F",

as in "Fbuckley"
Named after Lily Tomlin's famous line?
Just kidding.

>I may assure you that
> my middle name is in reality "Thomas" so I will need to see the evidence.

No offence, but you need to process the evidence. Put your hand in the
scars of "War 5.272". As you said, someone translated that phrase into
Greek. That somebody knew Hebrew and knew that they were processing a
Hebrew phrase. Otherwise they couldn't have turned "eben" 'stone' (an
Aramaic and Hebrew word), into 'son', which is not close to Aramaic
BAR but very close to BEN in Hebrew. And they would have processed the
gender concord in the verb correctly, contra some moderns whom we
won't mention. (It turns out that the Aramaic concord is a different
vowel 'e' versus 'a', [which is irrelevant because the phrase was
Hebrew], while Hebrew is just a long 'a' or a longer 'a', something
adjusted by a listener's ears 'on the fly' as appropriate.) So some
multilingual person considered 'the son is coming' a good
representation of what was being said. I concur. If it wasn't Josephus
himself, then there were at least two in antiquity who concurred.

What's more, this is wonderful anecdotal evidence for historical
research because Josephus is not trying to argue any language
whatsoever. It's purely incidental color with no argumentative
value.But Josephus does correctly call it 'the patriarchal language'.
And reading through the chapters of Antiquities that deals with the
patriarchs leaves little doubt that this language was Hebrew for
Josephus. Which is consistent with this passage in War 5:272. Score
one for Joe. Or several.


Randall Buth, PhD
randallbuth at gmail.com
Biblical Language Center
Learn Easily - Progress Further - Remember for Life

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